Sound Off

Fact-Checking The Sound Strike's Claims About the Arizona Boycott

The Sound Strike, the musical boycott of Arizona organized last year in the wake of a controversial immigration law, is crowing about its success.

The boycott is lead by former Rage Against The Machine singer Zack de la Rocha. It persists even though SB 1070 -- like an "eerily similar" measure passed by voters in California a decade earlier -- was blocked by courts before it could take effect in any meaningful way.

Now, The Sound Strike is "renewing" the call for boycott and bragging about the hits they've put on Arizona businesses. According to their web site, "only a handful of major acts have played in Arizona since the passage of SB 1070 in April of 2010."

One problem: That claim is not even a little bit true. And to whatever extent it is true, it's a function of scheduling, not politics.

Yes, Arizona has been passed over by a few socially-conscious indie rockers and rappers, as everyone predicted, but the big money tours keep coming. Younger, hipper Arizonans may be disappointed not to see their favorite band because of the boycott but the real cash cows haven't avoided this pasture. The only real effect? The choir isn't getting preached to. Let's look at the facts.

The first sign that The Sound Strike is puffing up their influence comes from a line in the press release naming four acts they've got to cancel shows: "Kanye West, Pitbull, Cypress Hill and My Chemical Romance."

Kanye West did recently cancel a show in Arizona -- his "Fame Kills" co-headlining show with Lady Gaga was supposed to open here but was scrapped after the Taylor Swift fiasco. That, of course, was long before the SB 1070 fracas. Right now he only has one tour date scheduled -- at Coachella, just over the state line in Indio, California. Will 'Ye bring his My Dark Twisted Fantasy tour to Arizona? I'm not holding my breath, but it's too soon to say.

Pitbull also canceled a concert in Arizona. And his cancellation was actually related to SB 1070. The problem with The Sound Strike's claim, however, is that Pitbull has since backed out of the boycott and played a show in Phoenix. Claiming him seems disingenuous to the point of fabrication.

My Chemical Romance also tried to back out of the boycott but quickly caved to pressure and canceled their Tempe date claiming it was an "oversight." The entire mascara-covered debacle should shame the band and their management.

Cypress Hill did cancel a May 2010 show.

Now on to the claim about how "only a handful of major acts have played in Arizona since the passage of SB 1070 in April of 2010."

That's partially true -- because their tours had come through just before the law. What constitutes "a major act" is a little sticky, but let's look at the top 50 concert tours of 2010 according to Pollstar.

Believe it or not, Bon Jovi had the top grossing tour of 2010. The band played here in February 2010. AC/DC was in second place and the band played here in December 2008 and was scheduled to bring their Black Ice tour through again in October 2009, but scrapped that show over health problems.

As for the rest of the top 10: U2 played here in October 2009, Lady Gaga famously brushed off calls to boycott, playing Phoenix in July and coming through again later this month. Metallica launched their world tour here in late 2008. Walking With Dinosaurs was here in 2008. Michael Buble was here last April. Paul McCartney played Glendale in March 2010. The Eagles played Phoenix the day before the bill was signed last April. Roger Waters played US Airways Center in November after the bill was passed.

I won't go through the full list of the top 50 tours of 2010 -- which goes as low as 80's act Simply Red -- but the only act with a tie to the boycott on it is the Black Eyed Peas, who performed here in April 2010.

Taboo, one member of the group, has signed up for the boycott. However, I'd venture to guess that if the group tours again soon Taboo will have two choices: Play the Arizona date if the bigger names in the group, Fergie and Will.I.Am say he needs to, or not perform and have no one notice the difference.

And Taboo is the only one of the boycotters who is in a band that is both very popular and actively touring. Rage Against the Machine is popular, but broken up. Same with Nine Inch Nails. The big-time tours that make serious money and have a major financial impact on the state are not exactly treating this town like it's South Africa in the late 80s.

The point is this: The Sound Strike's boycott is only assuring guys like Trace Adkins, who actually sell a ton of tickets, get to come to town and talk about how great SB 1070 is while the opposition's voices are silent. To me, that seems counterproductive and I, of course, also oppose SB 1070.

Either way, misleading press releases are no good to anyone. Perhaps people will see these lies and think the entire anti-SB 1070 movement has such disingenuous motives. That's no good for the people the boycotters are ostensibly trying to help.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar